As a fan of Ayn Rand and her book Atlas Shrugged, I am continually trolling the web for new and interesting reads about her work. It’s here that the new release “Radical For Capitalism: An Introduction to the Political Thought of Ayn Rand” by William R Thomas popped up on my radar screen.
Thomas is the Director of Programs at The Atlas Society, a non-profit organization that through Rand’s work promotes open Objectivism: the philosophy of reason, achievement, individualism and freedom. He is the main contributor to the best-selling book Myths About Ayn Rand, and has published essays on political, ethical and epistemological topics. He has also spoken in various parts of the world on the theory of individual rights as well as Ayn Rand’s philosophy of objectivism.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Thomas on a short list of topics of interest to liberty-minded individuals. Here are a few of his thoughts:
On Why He Wrote Radical For Capitalism
It was originally written for a large compilation of writings called The History of American Political Thought. This book essay is primarily written for a reader who is not familiar with Ayn Rand or Libertarian thought.
And The Book’s Title
The title is a reflection of how Rand described herself. Yes, she believed in laissez-faire and a free society, but Rand was at the same time very thoughtful of the cultural and philosophical underpinnings that all of this required.
On Capitalism And Rand’s Relevance To Modern Times
I wanted this book to appeal to contemporary readers and say to them that there are certain fundamental values that they really ought to have on their radar and to consider. My goal was to write this in an academically respectable way, without sounding like a raving nut from some fringe group. In terms of its applicability to modern times, I hope that readers come away with a recognition that the left/right political dichotomy doesn’t make sense; that the cultural ideas underlying those two sides are disjointed.
On Rand’s Controversial Philosophies Regarding Individualism
Rand believed that it is the individual who matters. In other words, YOU ARE WHAT MATTERS….. Your life is to make of it what you will. Anyone who tells you that whatever your background is determines you; anyone who says that you’re defined by some trait you had nothing to do with, now that’s injustice. Martin Luther King believed that people should be judged by the content of their character. Ayn Rand dreamed of the same thing.
On Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas And His Love For Rand’s Work
I have a very positive view of Justice Clarence Thomas and his principled jurisprudence. Many criticize him as simple-minded, but he’s not. He’s just principled. Sadly, Justice Thomas has been slandered and attacked because he was identified as a black conservative. The left just went after him tooth and nail, but I think he’s done a nice job on the Supreme Court. He’s been sort of a quiet voice for reason. That’s been really positive.
On How Rand Defined Capitalism and Selfishness
For Rand, “capitalism” was defined as a “free market economy.” Rand spent her life trying to rescue capitalism and the free market from it’s attackers. She had a rhetorical tendency to try and grab a term that a lot of people took as negative and, if she thought its real meaning was positive, she would take that term and use it to beat her opponents. She did that with selfishness too. Her book The Virtue of Selfishness was very controversial for that reason. She knew her readers would look at the word “selfishness” and immediately cast it as an oxymoron. Her view was that “selfishness” meant a concern for one’s own interests, pure and simple.
Rand thought that big productive businesses and industrialists, the kind lionized in Atlas Shrugged, were being attacked as inherently corrupt and evil. When Rand said that she was for capitalism, she meant that she was for industry. She championed world-changing creations. Apple Computer is a modern day example of this capitalistic spirit.
On Radical For Capitalism’s Value For Innovators and Young Creators
After reading this book, I sincerely hope that innovators and creators will recognize that they don’t have to apologize for creating something and that they are not robbing anybody. They shouldn’t be ashamed of their productive achievements and their desire to make money; for this is an honorable and a great thing. They should be principled in defending their acts and the effort that was required to achieve them.
Michael Scott is a liberty-minded blogger located in Denver, Colorado. More on the book Radicals For Capitalism can be found on Amazon